But our science is also turning humans and the world around us into something more and more mechanical, which is why some people want to turn to something more spiritual which gives them another dimension to humanity than just a machine.
But science is a driving force behind this idea, because if we didn't objectify the human body or any other object in our world, we would consider it differently and science as we have it today wouldn't exist. This in turn is a part of our European languages where we actually speak of things as objects, even such abstract things like time. The very fact we have a word for time speaks for it as an object. In many languages the concept of time is completely different or just entirely lacking.
I'm no anthropologist, but I think even the good-hearted, land-loving pagans of yor would have taken in better communication, indoor plumbing, and improved agriculture. We improve our lives for the same reasons they did.
I used to be Pagan. I mean, Pagan Pagan. Like, new-age-section-at-Barnes-and-Nobles Pagan. Then I began listening to atheist podcasts, like Infidelguy, and discussions that took on a more humanistic appeal. It was then I realized my rationalizations were actually, I guess the word would be, secular by definition. I read The God Delusion, and Richard Dawkins said it perfectly in how I viewed the world, as a "secular pantheist". He then says breaks it down even more as it being nothing more than "sexed up atheism". It was then I said to myself, well I guess that means I'm an atheist when it comes down to it.
But there will always be a pagan footprint in my past. The whole 'one with nature' is something I feel deeply about. I just don't have any ethereal ties to it. Before I looked at nature with a sort of mystical view. Now I look at it from a scientific view (biology major), and yet I'm at greater awe now than I ever was before. A secular awe of the world, if you will.. I call it Diet awe .. awe without the sugary guilt. Ok I'm gonna stop now, lol... but that is what I think an atheist pagan is.
Pagan literally means "rustic", or "country-dweller"...and so a deep love and understanding of nature, and the nature of things: one who sits back and enjoys nature and does not succumb to the hustle-bustle of city life. Though I live in the city, I am a huge lover of nature, the seasons, and how nature mirrors our actions; how it affects us and vice versa! Nature is so alive, it is beautiful! Just watch it...how the trees communicate with each other, the seasons, animals defense mechanisms, evolution, and so on... Great lil group here!
The Atheist part is the rational, logical, reasoned mind. The part of me that seeks to see the world as it really is.
The Pagan part creatively interprets that information, puts it into easier-to-follow metaphor and imagery. Our brains seem to have evolved to love finding patterns, rhythm, to put a 'will' on every little thing.
The Atheist part keeps balance there; knows that the language and images and ritual are not literal interpretations, but an artistic visual reference where little or no real reference exists (What does math 'look' like? What does the Unified Field 'look' like?).
I suppose it's a yin and yang. I wish to tap into the very real energy of the Unified field, of the 'fabric' of space-time. The Atheist side of me recognizes that while space-time is not a literal 'fabric,' our brains need a familiar point of reference, so allows the Pagan side of me to envision that.
Not sure if any of that made sense. It's late and I'm rambling!
I'm not really sure I count as pagan, honestly. I love nature, and feel ... awe I suppose when in it, and a certain excitement mixed with peace, like when whitewater rafting or swimming in the ocean during a thunderstorm. (No, it's not safe, but yes, it's amazing. Much like sex and hitchhiking. All risks are relative to their rewards.) But I don't believe in anything supernatural, don't buy into the "higher power" concept, think energy is a greatly misunderstood and overused term, etc. I'm very naturalistic these days. Even certain things that used to seem quasi-mystical to me, like a mother's love, can be explained hormonally. (Not that it makes it any less cool! If you place a newborn on mom's chest, the connection is so strong between them, her body will actually rise in temperature to bring the baby's body temp up.)
Angie - Dr. Rupert Sheldrake conducted experiments in London with nursing mothers because his wife told him that she would get the milk-let-down response in her breasts even when she was away from their son, and it corresponded with her baby awakening and being hungry. This was confirmed by the nanny, who compared notes with the mother about the timing. So Rupert decided to study this phenomenon and found that it was quite common among nursing mothers, but seldom mentioned because of the "woo" taboo.
I consider myself a possible "pagan" because I believe that nature is intelligent, and that other forms of life are conscious and that our consciousness affects each other and the rest of nature.
See the discussion I started in the "Pantheism - naturalism" group that I recently joined. It's about fascinating experiments done by scientist Rene' Peoc'h with a robot that moved according to a Random Event Generator, and was demonstrably influenced by a group of baby chicks that had bonded to it as a substitute mother. Katrina commented on that discussion, and so I went to her page, and found this group through her. So here I am! 8-)
Well, ultimately pagan means any other form of belief that is not Christian or a part of the montheistic religions. It's hard to shrug off the new age connotations though, and I would paganism generally does not involve any form of god-worshipping.
I know many people who blend their spiritual viewpoints like a double-mocha-latte. It's intriguing but doesn't always lead to many rational conversations. I still work with "insiders" (faith-folk) yet having worked with "outsiders" my whole life (and been one too) I appreciate returning to the origin of the word "pagan": a country-dwelling person of the land. Classically, the outcast, castout, castaways (lepers, heretics, heathens, etc). For many this seems a good place since we are welcomed "with open arms" by the natural world (Nature) of which we are an inseparable part. Once upon a time I saw a guy in the sky, then Nature was my goddess in the grass. Now, some form or formless "natural spirituality" seems to work, without worshipping anything anthropomorphic, including Nature. All figured out? No way. We are the pathfinders. I offer my writings and photography if it is of interest: Nature Temple. I still find the two Johns (Muir and Burroughs) helpful in exploring some kind of naturalistic spiritual path.
For many this seems a good place since we are welcomed "with open arms" by the natural world (Nature) of which we are an inseparable part. Once upon a time I saw a guy in the sky, then Nature was my goddess in the grass. Now, some form or formless "natural spirituality" seems to work, without worshipping anything anthropomorphic, including Nature. All figured out? No way. We are the pathfinders.
You've expressed this definition of naturalistic spirituality with great clarity, Chris. Thank you.